Cooling towers are significant components in many commercial buildings and industrial facilities. While they keep spaces and process water cool, they're also susceptible to fouling which can lead to inefficiencies and breakdowns. In addition to a properly designed chemical treatment program, an in-depth maintenance program will keep your cooling tower in working order all year.
The Importance of Cooling Tower Maintenance
A functioning cooling tower is essential to the HVAC systems and processes in your facility. With the proper, routine maintenance, you can ensure your tower is functional, efficient and safe throughout the year.
Preventive maintenance of a cooling tower is the best way to catch potential problems before they cause excessive wear. Extended periods of wear can reduce your tower's overall life span. A comprehensive maintenance program will help you identify issues and respond with immediate solutions, keeping your cooling tower functional for longer.
Beyond preventing malfunctions, maintenance can optimize performance. When all components are clean and functional, your tower will cool your building precisely as needed. Fouled fill, blocked distribution nozzles, buildup or broken parts may cause your cooling tower to work harder to achieve the same result, leaving you with higher running costs. Basin fouling can lead to under deposit corrosion that can cause irreversible damage to the cooling basin.
Open recirculating systems are a common area for Legionella and other pathogens to grow and proliferate. Maintenance programs should include cleaning practices that clear your tower of any potential deposits and build-up that provide an area for microbiological activity to flourish.
How to Maintain a Cooling Tower
Cooling tower maintenance requirements include several cleaning processes and areas to examine. Creating a defined maintenance process ensures that every scheduled procedure is effective. Work through the following steps on a regular basis.
1. Talk to the Experts
Refer to your system documentation and/or consult with the equipment supplier for unit-specific precautions and/or procedures. Consult your water treatment professional prior to adding any products to your system as undesired reactions could occur if incompatible products were to be introduced to the system.
2. Inspect the Tower
You should begin by taking some time to perform an inspection of the entire tower. This initial step can help you identify any areas that require immediate attention, such as cleaning or repairs. Your maintenance program will likely include the same basic steps every time, but the inspection will reveal which areas might need extra attention.
3. Follow Safety Procedures
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines for handling lockout or tagout on hazardous energy sources. The pumps and fans in a cooling tower can lead to severe injury if they start-up during maintenance. Make share you follow the lockout procedures thoroughly so you can protect yourself while you work. It's also vital to wear eye protection and respiratory gear during maintenance so you can protect yourself from any airborne bacteria. In many cases, a cooling tower will be considered a confined space. If this is the case, all confined space procedures should be followed.
4. Disinfect to Eliminate Bacteria
With the possibility of Legionnaires' disease, disinfection should be a priority during every maintenance cycle. OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) all detail how to handle the disinfection process for Legionella. Find a disinfectant product that's effective on your tower surfaces. Many products are designed specifically for cooling towers and are able to kill up 99.9% of Legionella.
5. Remove Fill Deposits
Cooling towers remove heat through evaporation, which leads to scale buildup. The level of scale buildup will depend on the mineral levels in your water, and some types of scale can be more severe than others. The fill is an area that may foul over time. Since this surface area is primarily responsible for passing the air into the system and cooling the water, a clogged fill can lead to extensive performance and efficiency problems. Deposits on the outer edges of the fill (non-water contacting surfaces) can be caused by drift and evaporation. These deposits do not typically affect performance but can be unsightly and add weight to the tower fill. Extreme caution should be taken while cleaning tower fill. High-pressure nozzles can cause damage to the tower fill. This damage can affect the performance of the tower system and result in the need for fill replacement.
6. Clear the Basin and Other Components of Sludge
Sludge is another substance that often forms during the cooling process. It often appears in the basin, and it can be a major cause of performance issues. Cooling tower vacuums can help you remove sludge efficiently. In many instances, a pool vacuum can be used by creating a siphon to a roof or outdoor drain. Always make sure that the selected drain or drainage is approved for the water and debris being discharged. The water being discharged may have a pH, conductivity, or halogen level that exceeds the levels acceptable for the drainage.
7. Inspect and Clean Heat Exchange Tubes
Debris, scale and biofilm can build up in the tubes, causing fouling and reduced performance. Again, the buildup relates to your water quality, so your cleaning needs will vary depending on the type and amount of the substances found in your tubes and exchangers.
8. Check Airflow
If the airflow in your cooling tower is not up to standard, the performance declines. Loose parts, misaligned fans and failing gearboxes can all relate to airflow problems. Making sure these components are in working order will keep your tower functional.
9. Examine the Water Pump
The pump moves water back and forth — another process that's essential to your cooling tower. Lubricating the water seal, bearings and pump can keep the system running efficiently, helping you cut back on operating expenses in the long term.
10. Keep a Regular Schedule
While you may not need to do an in-depth cleaning or repair process at every scheduled maintenance procedure, a consistent program is crucial. Twice a year is generally a reliable schedule, but you may need to do it more frequently if buildup occurs more often.
Find Water Testing Kits at AquaPhoenix Scientific
At AquaPhoenix Scientific, our water testing kits for cooling towers help you understand mineral contents and treat your water as necessary. Place an order for yours today or get in touch with us for more information.